1st May 2011

Darren Barker regained his European middleweight title with a stylish, workman like performance to claim a unanimous points decision over Italian battler Domenico Spada at the Olympia, London on Saturday night.

The judges final score cards of 115-113 and 116-113 twice, didn’t quiet reflect Barkers dominance and overall superiority over his opponent and any ring rust that may have built-up after 12 month’s out of the ring, seemed to have been wire brushed off and Barker was has sharp as a tack with his counter punching.

Spada made his usual aggressive start, pressing the action on the front foot, but Barker managed to keep himself out of range and avoid the majority of the blows.

Barker was on the wrong end of a clash of heads in the third, but continued to build an early lead on the scorecards as he picked off his opponent with precise shots.

Spada connected with a solid left hand in the fifth round but despite the Italian’s aggressiveness, it was Barker who was still landing the greater number of quality shots.

The right hand was proving to be a particularly effective weapon for Barker, who continued to build his lead through the middle rounds.

The only time that Barker looked like he may be struggling with inactivity was at the end of the seventh round and into the eighth as Spada enjoyed his best success in the contest.

Barker’s movement slowed in the later rounds, but he was always in control of the fight and was a clearer winner at the final bell although not entirely happy with his performance.

“I’m better than that, but I haven’t been in there for a year so there was a bit of rust, which I didn’t honestly think there would be,” Barker told Sky Sports.

“But it did creep up on me. That’s not taking anything away from Spada, what a tough opponent he was. Those rounds were very valuable and they’re in the bank now, so onwards and upwards.” added the new champion.

Barker 28, had been forced to vacate the title after undergoing a hip operation, but you would never have thought that the Barnet boxer had any layoff and he controlled the action from the opening bell, behind a fast jab and accurate shots that the willing but limited Spada had no answer to.

The Italian was certainly no push over or easy comeback fight for Barker after his time out – and credit to him for stepping back in at the level at which he left without a warm up fight. Prada had fought in two world title eliminator fights previously against current WBC world champion Sebastian Zbik and only narrowly lost out on both occasions, which also adds flavor to Barker’s relatively light work of the 30-year-old who had come to the UK to give his and win the European belt.

Barker used good combinations, angles and the smooth skills that we had previously become accustomed to and wasn’t fazed in the slightest by Spada’s heavy handed attacks and was able to anticipate everything the Italian hard man had to muster and punish him back with interest.

The unbeaten Barker who was forced to give up the same belt last year through his injury, now has his sights firmly set on a showdown with domestic rival Matthew Macklin. The on off fight with the Birmingham boxer who had claimed the belt Barker was forced to vacate. He then himself let the title go to chase a fight with Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright in America, that eventually fell through.

Macklin’s next fight is on June 25th, when he challenges WBA World Middleweight Champion. Felix Sturm for his belt and a win could see an all British middleweight clash with Barker, that has been simmering for sometime and what will eventually determine the best middleweight fighting on these shores.

Barker (23-0, 14KO’s) has said he will be cheering on Macklin (28-2, 19KO’s) to beat Sturm, hoping that a big win for the Brummie would bring the highly anticipated fight he craves, a step closer.

“He’s just swerved me basically! I want to fight him and prove that I’m the best, it’s just a shame that deep down he knows that I’ll beat him,” said Barker.

“Everyone wants to watch us fight and in that respect I am annoyed at him for not taking me on. Why not boost the profile of the sport here by setting up these big British fights?

“I can only imagine it’s because he knows I am going to beat him, because I would beat him and I’ve got his number all day long, I’m the best in Europe, the best in Britain.”

“It was generating interest from the general public, even from people who knew nothing about boxing, but they were asking me about fighting Macklin and there was a buzz. If you look at his last performances they are poor and to see him ranked so highly gets to me, it really does.”

Barker insists though that his ambition to fight Macklin is nothing personal against him, but is simply borne out of annoyance that this British box-office clash has still to come to fruit.

“There’s no hatred there, but it’s frustration from me – from the bottom of my heart there’s no way Matthew Macklin can beat me and it’s annoying because I want to prove it to everyone – all the Macklin fans out there and the Barker haters for whatever reason, I want to show that I’m the number one and I’m not content with number two.” added Barker.
Undercard results to follow….
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